This morning I read an interesting article from Relevant Magazine called ."It's OK to Call Yourself a Christian." It was an op-ed piece in response to an Rolling Stone interview with Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons in which he talks about his discomfort with identifying himself with the label "Christian."
Does Mumford still consider himself a Christian? "I don't really like that word," he says. "It comes with so much baggage. So, no, I wouldn't call myself a Christian. I think the word just conjures up all these religious images that I don't really like. ... I've kind of separated myself from the culture of Christianity."
This is not an uncommon response, nor is it hard to understand. I myself have struggled with the label "Christian" at times because many times it seems to imply a certain type of person, usually not flatteringly. "Christians" are judgmental, hypocritical, beholden to politics, self-righteous, etc., etc. It's no wonder folks wouldn't want to be associated with that.
The thing is, though, that the vast majority of Christians I know are nothing like that. Not that everybody doesn't have their moments, but almost all of the Christians I know are generous, humble, open-minded, and loving. And if we don't manage to actually get there all the time, we are trying very hard to be. After all, that's what Jesus did, right?
In some ways, of course, the label doesn't matter. Do we have to call ourselves Christians to be Jesus-followers? No. The word "Christian" hardly appears in the Bible (depending on your translation, 2-3 times), and Jesus never mentions it.
But there is something to be said for the identity piece. Being Christian puts me in community with others. It locates me as part of something larger than myself. And that is in the Bible - over and over again. Part of following Jesus is walking with others who are trying to do the same. From the disciples to the crowds to the church, being a Jesus-follower isn't an individual pursuit. You don't do it by yourself.
And that's hard, sometimes. It's inconvenient and messy. It means that we may end up being associated with folks that we may not necessarily agree with on all things. It means that we may have to give and to share and to learn and to change. But it's also glorious and moving and chaotic and life-giving.
When we gather for worship together... When we lift our voices in song... When we talk with one another about our fears and our doubts and our questions... When we speak up for justice... When we pool our resources to do amazing things we could never do on our own... We're doing it. We're following Jesus. We're being Christian.